“I have no intention of leaving the hotel,” Sir Leslie said, stiffly.
Berenice pointed to her table.
“Come and take your coffee with me, Mrs. Mannering,” she said.
* * * * *
Mannering passed through the day like a man in a nightmare. He addressed two meetings of working-men, and interviewed half a dozen of his workers. At mid-day the afternoon edition of the Yorkshire Herald was being sold in the streets. He bought a copy and glanced it feverishly through. Nothing! He lunched and went on with his work. At three o’clock a second edition was out. Again he purchased a copy, and again there was nothing. The suspense was getting worse even than the disaster itself. Between four and five they brought him in a telegram. He tore it open, and found that it was from Bonestre. The words seemed to stare up at him from the pink form. It was incredible:
“Polden muzzled. Go in and win.”
The form fluttered from his fingers on to the floor of his sitting-room. He stood looking at it, dazed. Outside, a mob of people, standing round his carriage, were shouting his name.
MR. MANNERING, M.P.
Mannering threw up his window with a sigh of immense relief. The air was cold and fresh. The land, as yet unwarmed by the slowly rising sun, was hung with a faint autumn mist. Traces of an early frost lay in the brown hedgerows inland; the sea was like a sheet of polished glass. Gone the smoke-stained rows of shapeless houses, the atmosphere polluted by a thousand chimneys belching smuts and black vapour, the clanging of electric cars, the rattle of all manner of vehicles over the cobbled streets. Gone the hoarse excitement of the shouting mobs, the poisonous atmosphere of close rooms, all the turmoil and racket and anxiety of those fighting days. He was back again in Bonestre. Below in the courtyard the white cockatoo was screaming. The waiters in their linen coats were preparing the tables for the few remaining guests. And the other things were of yesterday!
Mannering had arrived in the middle of the night unexpectedly, and his appearance was a surprise to every one. He had knocked at his wife’s door on his way downstairs, but Blanche had taken to early rising, and was already down. He found them all breakfasting together in a sheltered corner of the courtyard.
Berenice, after the usual greetings and explanations, smiled at him thoughtfully.
“I am not sure,” she said, “whether I ought to congratulate you or not. Sir Leslie here thinks that you mean mischief!”
“Only on the principle,” Borrowdean said, “that whoever is not with us is against us.”
“We are all agreed upon one thing,” Berenice said. “It was your last speech, the one the night before the election, which carried you in. A national party indeed! A legislator, not a politician! You talked to those canny Yorkshiremen with your head in the clouds, and yet they listened.”